Vol 4 No 8 A Short Drive to Canada and NY

The short drive, 3,600 miles, or as I affectionately call it, the great circle route, went this way: we left Minneapolis on Oct. 9th, driving north and into Wisconsin to the town of Bayfield, gateway to the Apostle Islands. The problem was the ever increasing rain! By the time we reached our destination, not only was it pouring but there were 12 foot waves on Lake Superior…scratch the Apostle Islands. But the bright side was the fall colors, some of the most beautiful of the trip! It finally began to clear but we had to leave as the purpose of the trip was to get to Tarrytown, New York, for my goddaughter’s wedding. We will be back however!

Our next stop was Sault St. Marie which is on both sides of the border. We chose the U.S. side, crossing Lake Superior into Canada the next morning. SSM marks the convergence of Lake Superior and Lake Huron through a series of locks mainly used by ore ships. In case you don’t know, Superior is the largest and deepest of the Great Lakes. From there we circled Lake Huron to Toronto which is just east of Lake Erie, and on the shores of Lake Ontario. It is a strange but exciting city of exotic high rise buildings with no particular pattern. We spent two nights there, the highlight being the CN Tower where we had a long lunch as the restaurant rotated 360 degrees for spectacular views. After lunch, we ascended 33 more stories to the spire for even more spectacular panoramas. (Helpful hint: to visit the tower costs C$30 per person plus another C$20 to see the spire, BUT you can avoid the basic fee if you have a reservation at the restaurant which significantly decreases the cost of the experience. Highly recommended!)

From Toronto we drove the less than two hours to Niagara, but having visited the Falls before we focused on the Niagara-On-The-Lake region which is chock full of wineries. The number has increased dramatically since our visit a few years ago. There are now over a hundred of them of varying quality. I had hoped to visit two from our first visit, Malivore, which makes a really good Gamay, surprising given the latitude and lack of hot summers, and Stratus, a modern steel edifice that is also producing fine wines. The nearly 30% discount due to currency conversion makes them a great buy. Note that virtually all the wineries produce good to high quality whites but very few produce great red wines, and Ice Wines (Eiswein in Germany). Inniskillin is the best for ice wine (traditionally made from Vidal grapes), and in 2006 was purchased by Constellation Brands, which also bought another very good producer, Jackson-Triggs, which is much cheaper and a best buy.

The one winery we revisited was my favorite, Coloneiri, which is the most spectacular in the region. Imagine driving past fields and vineyards, seeing a sign to the winery, turning in and seeing a beautiful, and huge, chateau-like building, and there you have it: Coloneri! The family came from Italy and began building the estate over ten years ago and it is still not complete. At the time of my first visit I said to my host, “now I know what they mean when they say ‘if you cant to make a small fortune in wine, start with a large fortune’.” He immediately corrected me, saying, “a very large fortune”. The two sons and their wives continue to run the winery and produce a full line of red and white wines, all of which are very good. But it is the fullness of the reds. so reminiscent of wines from the Valpolicella region, especially Amarone’s, that got my attention, along with their motto, “it’s not just love, it’s passion.” I love that word and those who have it.

Realizing that it wasn’t hot enough to make vibrant, they take from 25-50% of the red grapes and dry them in racks in a greenhouse, a method known as ‘appassimento’. Trust me: it works!” Fantastico!

We would have liked to spend more time in the area but had to move on to the Finger Lakes where we stayed in Hammondsport, on Keuka Lake. Some of the best wineries in the region are there including Dr. Konstantin Frank, Ravines, and a new, small winery, Weis Vineyards. One I didn’t visit this time was Wagner which is on Seneca Lake. All are highly recommended!

I visited Dr. Konstantin Frank’s winery, my second time. Fred Frank, grandson of the Doctor, and I have been communicating since the last time I visited and met Meaghan, the fourth generation, rare in American winemaking. This family takes winemaking seriously along with carrying on the legacy of Dr. Frank, a Russian who emigrated here in the 1920’s and proved that vitis vinifera grapes, not just native vitis labrusca, and vitis riparia grapes or French hybrids, could be grown in the cold climes of upper New York state. These wines made wines from here unpalatable to those outside of the East Coast who had not experienced the great wines of France, and California. I vividly recall tasting some of them (and you still can today), and passing on them entirely. But Dr. Frank, despite tremendous opposition, persevered, and as a result of his passion, New York wines, both in the Finger Lakes, and on Long Island are high quality and able to compete with wines from California and other regions. Like I witnessed in Canada, there has been an explosion in wineries in the state, as elsewhere in the United States.

Dr. Frank also developed a lasting friendship with Andre Tchellistchef, who is regarded as the father of American, especially California winemaking. My book project, Wine and Passion, is dedicated to them and their legacy. Whereas Andre’s biggest battle was with the owner of Beaulieu Vineyards, Dr.  Frank’s was with the state authorities and local wineries, both of whom resisted his advice. Their friendship also resulted in some California winemakers coming east, first and most notably Eric Frey, the Frank’s first non-family winemaker. One last contribution Dr. Frank attempted to make was to convince UC Davis that the AxR1 phylloxera resistant rootstock, wasn’t. He knew that since the deadly mite came from America that only American rootstalk would be resistant, not the AxR1. Their failure to accept this cost the industry millions of dollars when, as Dr. Frank predicted, the mite appeared in California. Like his friend, Andre, Konstantin was a remarkable man who won despite formidable odds against him. As a result their Pinot Noir vineyards and other vines are among the oldest in North America.

Many winemakers since Eric Frey have had their start here and gone on to work for other wineries in New York, California and other countries, so they now have a team of winemakers to insure quality and continuation of their passion for making fine wine.

It was with a sense of sadness that we left the Finger Lakes but we had to move on to Tarrytown for the wedding, but along the way I met with Kevin Zraly, one of the most influential people in wine today and one who has an enormous passion for wine. Kevin ran Windows on the World restaurant and has taught and published (with several revisions), the wine course of that name, the most purchased book on wine of all time.

Kevin’s passion and friendliness cannot be overemphasized, nor can his knowledge of what makes a good or great wine. If you live in New York and want to learn more about enjoying wine, I highly recommend his Advanced and Master’s Wine Classes. They are an incredible bargain and value, where tasting is key to your understanding of wine.

Well, friends, I have gone on far too long but will pick up rest with the rest of our trip.

Trader Bill

(c) 2018

 

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traderbill

How did Trader Bill originate? It was conceived by me as a way of providing information summaries of global financial markets so that friends and associates could bring themselves up to speed on events and changing market conditions upon their arrival at work. In addition, it provides information on speakers and economic releases that day with consensus estimates and level of last release so that the reader is prepared to react, or knows how the market might react upon the release of information. Who is Trader Bill? Initially any reference to me was as ‘i’. This is to remove the aura of ego and to suggest that i am but a humble reporter, albeit with 35 years of investment experience. Investments are demanding of ego, however, or one would not feel that he was qualified to manage someone else’s money in the first instance. Therefore i needed an ‘alter-ego’. Like Winchell and Mahoney, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy and especially Trader Vic and Mai Tai’s! Why Trader Vic? Because he was a likeable man who delivered pleasure to his customers and knew exactly what their desires were. The reason for the alter ego became obvious once I introduced Trader Bill into my commentaries: people started asking what Trader Bill thought. They had never asked me what I thought before, but suddenly they wanted to know what TB thought! Now mind you they KNEW that I was Trader Bill but for some reason he became bigger than life. Maybe it was the small ‘I’? What does Trader Bill try to do?His goal is to educate from his years of experience. Consider that most of the traders and people managing investments weren’t even around in 1987 for the crash! Consider that Graham and Dodd, and even Warren Buffet are not relevant to them, too old hat. Their historical perceptions of markets and fundamentals (earnings, price/earnings ratios, bonds, debt service coverage) are irrelevant in this fast moving world. This is the NEW ECONOMY, or is it? How did your style originate?Years ago i found that i had a knack and talent for writing. In addition, i developed an ability to analyze market news about 15 years ago. It took the Crash of ‘87. Prior to that i was just listening to what others said about the economy. But bond yields had been soaring in ‘87 yet the stock market just kept hitting new highs. That was when i began to learn about markets. i have both a dry and witty sense of humor (some call it inane!). Therefore i attempt to make even the worst news somewhat amusing: whether it is the absurdity of an economic release, or the comments of a CEO. This is trading desk humor (or gallows humor). It isn’t politically correct but it does ease tension. Ironically, it is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (in the Navy they say: it’s always darkest before it’s pitch black!), that allows you to be more objective in your analysis, as bad as a situation is there will still be a tomorrow! You will see that i practice three-dot journalism, a style made famous by San Francisco reporter Herb Caen, whom i idolized. At least to me it is effective. What is so special about your analysis?Frankly, i don’t know that it is special, but at least it beats “the market closed down today on profit taking.” What i do know is that most of what you read is spat out without considering whether or not it is rational, like the above statement. Is it right? Sometimes yes and sometimes no, and that is the key to what is different about my analysis: it is meant to make you think. Is Dan Rather right or is Trader Bill right? If it causes you to stop and think about it, regardless of whether you agree, i win! Because THAT is my goal…not to have you think i am a guru, got that? Bet you never heard that ANYWHERE before in my business! Instead they want you to think just how smart they are but remember in this business if you are right 60% of the time you ARE a genius! Another thing that is different is when i am wrong on an analysis i will tell you, not hope you forget what i said. So now you have the tools to do what the speculators and hedge funds do: challenge authority, and if you make money it is because YOU did it not me. i was just a tool, your flunky to do the grunt work and let you decide…course you could be wrong too but at least you looked at the big picture. But the goal is also to have fun! This shouldn’t be a business of hushed tones and grim faces. It is a living, breathing thing and nowhere else in the world do you have the odds as much in your favor as here. Just beware of the guy who wants to put his arm around you and tell you he is your friend. So there you have it. I hope you select me as one of your sources for market information. If you do I promise to work my best for your financial success. Trader Bill

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